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Encounters: Dancing In Your Shoes – A Reflection

Sat 29 July 2023
Part of: Company of People | Performing Gender: Dancing in your Shoes | 2019-2024 | Encounters Festivals
News image: Epic Everyday by Company of People © Elly Welford

On 7-8 July 2023, Yorkshire Dance welcomed Performing Gender community partners from Slovenia and the Netherlands, as well as local audiences to Encounters: Dancing In Your Shoes. This dance festival focused on themes around identity, community, and how we draw on our lived experiences to create art. 

Once the Performing Gender communities arrived on Friday, they took part in a welcome workshop that also included our intergenerational, Company of People. Hosted by local artist Kate Cox and Ágnes Grélinger (a dance artist from Hungary, who ran a residency a Yorkshire Dance last year), this was the first time the Performing Gender participants had all met and danced together, and after months of work, and thousands of miles of travel, it was a joyful and emotional moment. 

This was followed by a talk facilitated by Laura Kumin, reflecting on the co-creation process between artists and participants of the Performing Gender project, inviting in wider perspectives from guest artists, Jo Fong and Dee Rogers.  

Finally on the evening of the 7 July, we were treated to a performance of ‘But First We Are Going To Eat’ by Community of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, from the Netherlands. This dance theatre piece explored the complexities of the Moluccan identity while living in the Netherlands, featuring projection, live cooking, and Tai Chi. This is a part of history that is rarely discussed, even in the Netherlands, so it was a privilege to learn more about it through the piece. After the performance, the audience were able to eat the food cooked onstage – it was a tasty way to end the first day of Encounters: Dancing In Your Shoes. 

“I was overawed to discover that eating was a part of this event. I loved the rhythmic rocking of the audience participation, loved hearing the lived stories” 

Audience response to ‘But First We Are Going To Eat’ 

 The next day started with dance workshops hosted by Ágnes Grélinger (Express Yourself) and Jija Sohn (Landing On Feathers) and a special screening in Yorkshire Dance’s cosy North Space, of all short films from the 8 European partners involved in the Performing Gender Project. It was wonderful to have Ágnes and Jija return to Yorkshire Dance following their Autumn 2022 residencies and continue their connection to communities in Leeds. If you would like to find out more about this, you can watch the short films made about their residencies on our YouTube channel. 

Then after a break for lunch in the Foyer, we were ready for our next round of movement workshops with Agnes (Collective Self-Care) and Jija (Body + Archive) and were joined by Jo Fong and Dee Rogers, whose Unsolved workshop was based on their piece ‘A Brief History of Difference’. A strong theme for this afternoon was care, and how we can offer it to ourselves and others through dance practice and beyond. 

“This event felt very safe + inclusive. I really enjoyed meeting many different people both in and outside of the Leeds dance scene.” 

Audience response to the festival. 

Next was the headline performance at Leeds Playhouse on the beautiful Quarry Theatre, a double bill featuring ‘Nobody Whistles Anymore’ by the City of Women from Slovenia, and ‘Epic Stories of the Everday’ by the Company of People from Leeds. The first dance theatre performance was politically focused, parodying the fear of feminism, and the politicians that promote it. It was also a personal work, including intimate retellings of first love, vulnerability and what it means to relate to your own body as you move through life.  

‘Epic Stories of the Everyday’ really tapped into that sense of togetherness and support across generations, flowing through a series of duets and group sections full of colour and personality. Artistic references were weaved into the poetry and visuals of the performance, especially when creating an epic tableau like a classical painting, or when the photographic portraits by Leeds-based photographer, Casey Orr, were projected. With a warm and generous audience, both pieces brought the house down with a truly unforgettable double bill. 

“[The highlight was the] welcoming and warm atmosphere that made me feel completely at ease with challenging material. Also; really fantastic and engaging Q&A that enriches the experience.” 

Audience response to the double bill. 

But the weekend was not over yet! Once we had all dried our eyes, it was time to party with Fresh Junk, a DJ/art collective that specialize in making space for everyone on the dance floor – they certainly did, and everyone got a chance to celebrate what a once in a lifetime event Encounters: Dancing In Your Shoes had been. 

If you would like to join our next Encounters Festival, you can save the date (28 October 2023) and sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear when tickets go on sale. 

If you would like to find out more about the Performing Gender project, you can do so here. 

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